on 6 May 2013
Near my home town is the village of Hinton Martel. In 1857, having been a staunchly evangelical priest in Weymouth, Charles Bridges became vicar of this little village church. That was before massive changes. A future vicar had the church refurbished in the baroque style. (The book has many excellent photographs of altars in Martin Travers, Society of Ss. Peter & Paul style) If you go there today, you can still see the huge high altar reredos and its six candles, which are completely out of keeping with the architecture of the building. Successive anglo-papalist priests have served there. In my teens, the then vicar was famed as a confessor. Many of the Anglo-Catholic clergy sought him out. The last time I was there, however, it had gone into a team ministry with a woman as its team rector and `Choral Eucharist;' was celebrated about once Sunday per month. As its website proclaims "In the past Hinton Martell has had a high Anglican Tradition but now is much more central in its form of worship." This church typifies the rise and fall of the anglo-papalist movement and its main society, The Catholic League.
Anglo- papalists are a sub-species of Anglo Catholics who desire the corporate reunion of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church. In the early days, they were dissatisfied with the Oxford Movement because they claimed that it had been infected by liberal thinking.
Rome was seen as the rock from which the Church of England was hewn and the Mother to whom she would return. Anglo-papalist aims are summed up as:
Corporate Reunion presupposed complete dogmatic agreement in all matters held to be de fide.
From that it followed that the Church of England must be regarded, not as an independent and self-governing church, nor as one of the 'Three Branches' of the Church Universal, but as a `severed limb' of the Western Church, that is to say in theological terms, as being in schism. (Fr. Hope Patten was wont to speak of `two potty little provinces of no importance compared with the whole of Western Christendom'.")
Accused by bishops of illegal activities such as the use of the Roman Rite (some of these priests regarded Cranmer's Prayer Book to be `inspired by the Devil'), reservation of the Blessed Sacrament (in one kind) and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament (which they sometimes called `United prayer meeting' to keep bishops off the scent), they claimed they were obeying Canon Law. The reformers didn't get round to repealing Western Canon Law so it was the bishops, not the anglo-papalists who were acting illegally. Indeed, many priests rejected the authority of bishops because they were out of communion with the See of Peter and acted merely as `officers of state. Many bishops were reluctant to discipline these clergy because many of them worked in `tough' parishes where other clergy, especially those with young children, were reluctant to work. They were also good pastors, for example speaking up for `local villains' in court. One was described as "show(ing) a real concern for his people by Kilburn, who was much respected for that not only by them, but also by the diocesan authorities. His church was well supported, nearly entirely by those living round about in circumstances of great material deprivation. The fashionable swoonishness of some West End strongholds of Anglo-Catholicism was far distant."
Where bishops failed to act, laymen waded in. The infamous John Kensit became a parishioner of St. Ethelburga's Bishopsgate solely for the purpose of making a fuss. He sued for `assault' because the priest 'threw water at me', which is a novel way of describing the Asperges.
We often don't know how `successful' they were in their parish work since some refused to keep statistics in parish registers because `God knows who comes to his sacraments.'
There were various groupings within the movement. For example, one group espoused the use of the Latin Breviary. One of its members was Fr. Hope Patten of Walsingham, despite the fact that illness prevented him from receiving much education so Latin was beyond him. Married priests were decidedly second-class to them.
A leading figure, though moderate and establishment, was Lord Halifax. He established talks with senior Roman Catholics and helped to establish the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (though, tellingly it started off in the octave of the feast of the Chair of peter and was later moved to January). As a moderate, he was embarrassed by the more outrageous extremists, such as one priest who told the Pope, in an audience in 1925, that the entire Church of England was ready to submit immediately. I wonder if it has always been the case that Rome has an inaccurate picture of the C of E - in more recent times, members of the ARCIC have signed up to things that the rank and file wouldn't recognise as speaking for them.
Halifax's moderate stance was such that he had the 1549 Prayer Book, rather than the Roman Rite, used on his estate and was annoyed, on his visits to St. Mary's Bourne Street, when the silent canon was used (though he was not always able to tell as he became increasingly deaf.)
One fault line in the movement was politics; "between those who looked upon the Church as an hierarchical body and those who regarded it as an expression of social democracy. During the first half of the twentieth century, almost all the Socialists in the Church of England were Anglo-Catholics, but there were far more Anglo-Catholics who were not Socialists. In general terms, the Anglican Papalists were strongly of the view that the Church was hierarchical, and were opposed to lay involvement in its affairs, whether by the establishment of Parochial Church Councils or otherwise. They tended to follow the lead of Rome politically as well as ecclesiastically, which at the time meant that they were well to the right of the political centre, particularly over issues such as the Spanish Civil War. Some were less than critical of the dictatorships established in Italy, Spain and Portugal during the inter¬war period, and even praised the Vichy regime in France.
"There were of course exceptions to those generalisations: Raymond Raynes, who turned the Community of the Resurrection in a definite Romeward direction, was also a committed Socialist..... Many Anglo-Catholic Socialists were anti-Roman; the best known of these was Revd Conrad Noel, vicar of Thaxted, Essex."
The ordination of women was a huge dent in this movement. ("In 1945 L. E. Jack, the then secretary of the Confraternity of Unity and the last churchwarden of St Saviour, Hoxton, commented on the then recent irregular ordination of a woman in Hong Kong by the laconic comment: 'It is no more possible validly to ordain a woman than to baptise a cow.)
Walsingham had moved away from being an exotic place (on my first visit, I witnessed private masses, some in Latin, going on at all the side altars with queues of priests waiting their turn) to the mainstream. Many bog standard parishes went on retreat and/or pilgrimage there. With the Advent of Forward in Faith, such places has retreated from the mainstream back into their ghettoes.
The hopes for corporate reunion revived again, if only for a few, with the ordinariate - the author predicted, in 2005, some sort of uniate status whereby local customs and liturgy would be retained. However, the Catholic League still exists and is, this year, celebrating its centenary.